Friday, December 20, 2013


The Beetle -- her first week.

I don't want to write about it. You can't make me. But I've been sitting here staring at a blank laptop screen for 20 minutes, and there's nothing else I can think about. It's the only thing that matters right now. Either I write about it or there's gonna be an empty half-page in your Monday paper.

I'm car shopping. You may applaud if you'd like. Just don't do it too loudly. I don't want the Beetle to hear.

At 161,000 miles, my beloved Bug is falling to pieces. Mats have worn through. Parts have fallen off, been replaced, and fallen off again. The car I drive today is mostly a rehabbed, rebuilt, and replaced version of the one I fell in love with fifteen years ago. I'm still a fan, don't get me wrong -- but my allegiance towards my car could be a tad stronger were I able to drive it out of town without constant fear of catastrophic failure.

Last week may have been the final straw. My car has now lost the ability to lock. Well, it eventually locks, provided you stand there and fiddle-faddle with the latch, opening and closing the door over and over again -- and even then it's a dice toss that the alarm won't start randomly going off. Not good. I asked my mechanic if he could do anything to help. His response? "I could help you write a sign that says, 'Free car. Please steal.'"

My dealership gave me a quote of $800 to fix. Two days later, that same dealership told me that my car's current trade-in value is $750. I think it might be time; my Wonder Beetle may be headed to pasture.

I have now spent the past 7 days traipsing through car lots, being wheeled and dealed by aggressive salespeople, and listening to everyone tell me why THEIR cars are the best cars in all of car-dom ever. I've also rapidly come to a conclusion: I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing.

I should like to think that when the average Joe shops for a car, they concern themselves with things like performance, reliability, safety, and whatever Built Ford Tough means. I seem to be more concerned about leather seats, sunroofs, Bluetooth connectivity, and whether or not I inadvertently cross the line from "affordable yet stylish" to "a total girlie car."

Last time, I didn't even have to test drive a Beetle to know it was going to be my next car. It was the trifecta of cool:  a little exotic, a bit of a head-turner, and its TV ads featured the music of the band Spiritualized. Fifteen years ago, I owned a cool car.

Fifteen years later, I own a total girlie car. No Spiritualized song can hide the fact that I knowingly and willingly bought a vehicle that comes standard with a built-in flower vase, is available in an array of pastel colors, and has a grill specially designed to look like the car's smiling at you. It doesn't exactly scream testosterone. Just yesterday I drove it through a car lot and I'm pretty sure I caught an F-250 laughing at it.

Now could be my chance to macho things up a bit and find a car that says "BOW BEFORE MY INCREDIBLE MASCULINITY!" Which, naturally, is why I went out and immediately test drove a Mini Cooper. Okay, apparently I have a thing for cute little sissy cars. But I have to draw the line somewhere. I am not exactly a svelte guy these days, and the only fate worse than driving a girlie car is being Fat-Guy-In-A-Little-Car. The Mini was out.

I'm still looking and comparing and test driving, but I'm starting to narrow it down. I'm kinda digging the 2014 Corolla, a car that isn't exactly known for heart-pounding excitement but seems like the kind of reliable car that a responsible middle-aged guy with fading aspirations of cool should be driving.

Another possibility? Well, it's not my fault. I swear to you I went to the VW dealer to check out Jettas and Passats. But it called out to me. It... smiled at me. I test drove a NEW New Beetle, and it made me swoon. It's got plenty of oomph, more space, doors that lock, and they 86'ed the flower vase so it's totally macho as heck now, right? Plus if it's such a girlie car, why is it the only auto on the road that inexplicably causes children to slug one another as you drive by?

So that's where I'm at now. I wanted to wait to write this column until I'd made up my made and made a deal. Instead, I'm now mired in a sea of financing, budgets, and the absolutely unfun decision of whether to lease or buy. Leasing is definitely the short-term cheapest way to go, but I don't know if it's the smartest. Plus, if you're leasing a car, you've got to take serious care of the thing.

"You might not be capable of such a feat," my friend Jason lectured to me last night. "You could go into this thing with the best of intentions, but you might have to come to terms with the fact that you're hard-wired to be a slob."  That's a fairly accurate assessment, judging by the fact that it's currently snowing at the summit of Mt. Dirty Dishes in my kitchen sink.

I wish there was someone out there with all the answers. I thought there was: my dad. After I told him of my dilemma, he volunteered to go check out the Corolla for his expert assessment.

"We were impressed," he said. "Oh, and while we were there, your mom and I bought a RAV4. It's a heck of a ride."

Why couldn't it be easier? When I was a kid, I was promised a future where we'd just hop in teleporters if we wanted to go somewhere. But I suppose if such a world existed, I'd probably be at the teleporter dealership right now, learning about the Toyota Telecorolla's 5-star safety system and wondering if I needed a teleporter with satellite radio and heated seats. Wish me luck -- if for no other reason than I won't be able to write about anything else until I get this nonsense figured out.


David Woodall said...

Car shopping is actually exciting, especially when you have a list of the things that your new car must possess. It'll be easier for you to determine the type of car to buy according to your everyday needs. Just don't get a car that won't lock again. Hehe! Good luck with your car shopping! :)

Woody Woodall @ CapitolHillExxon

Jimmy Reeder said...

Holding out for a later model seems like a good idea at this point. At least you are sure that you can enjoy the modern comforts and not worry about it falling apart any time soon. And with the care you gave your previous one, it’ll probably last you another decade or so.